House conservatives to air grievances in new ‘Swamp’ docu-series
Four conservative Republicans in the House are airing their grievances with Washington, including frustrations with GOP leaders, in a new video series slated to be released on Facebook early next week.
In a trailer for “The Swamp,” exclusively obtained by The Hill, Reps. Tom Garrett (R-Va.), Ken Buck (R-Colo.), Dave Brat (R-Va.) and Rod Blum (R-Iowa) complain about the Washington machine and are cast as people fighting the system.
There is no criticism in the trailer of Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and his leadership team, though former Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) gets some tough words.
Blum talks of being reprimanded by Boehner as footage of the former Speaker rolls.
“[Boehner] pointed to me and said, ‘I just want you to know around here, we don’t reward bad behavior,’” Blum says. “This is bullshit. You know, I’m a grown adult who’s accomplished something in life — I don’t need you telling me what is right or wrong.”
It’s not clear from the trailer what the conversation was about, though Blum voted against Boehner for Speaker in 2015 — even after the then-Speaker had campaign for him that previous fall.
Buck, who was elected to Congress in 2014, said he felt pressure from leadership shortly after he arrived as a freshman member.
“Right when I got here, the orientation was, was just unbelievable in the sense that we were being treated like some kind of animal,” he says.
Garrett expressed his disappointment with being told to support legislation he doesn’t agree with because of President Trump’s need for a win. It’s not clear what bill he is referring to.
“He has to have a victory, really?” he says. “At what point did any one person become more important than what was the best for individuals in this nation to fulfill their individual dreams?”
The trailer touts Brat’s surprise victory over former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in a 2014 GOP primary, underlining the congressman’s argument that he is a lawmaker fighting the system.
“The machine said, ‘No, you can’t run for that seat,’ and I said, ‘I don’t understand this machine thing,’” Brat says of the race.
Buck says that “most of [his] colleagues are afraid of losing.”
“That’s their biggest fear,” he said.
Of the four, Blum might have the most reason to fear losing his seat. His race is rated a “toss-up” by the Cook Political Report. Brat’s seat is rated “leaning Republican,” while Garrett’s is “likely Republican.”
Matt Whitworth, the executive producer and creator of the series, said he initially reached out to both GOP and Democratic offices when he started the project, pitching lawmakers on the idea of showing the “private sort of backroom grumblings between rank-and-file members.”
“I don’t think anyone ever really told the story about what goes on behind the scenes in D.C., you know, from the perspective of sitting members. So we really wanted to tell that story in a way that was sort of raw and unfiltered and frankly shocking,” he said.
Whitworth said the members profiled in the documentary series were willing to give him full access.
“The inspiration came from actually just having private conversations with different members and sort of hearing their frustrations, and you know, hearing some of the war stories from Congress,” he said.
Garrett said he hopes the series will give voters the chance to get to know the members on a more personal level and what they stand for in a way that may not be possible if told using another form of media.
“I try really hard not to be critical of leadership, what I say all the time, what I’ve said with their cameras rolling, is I’ve never had to walk a mile in the shoes of Paul Ryan or [House Majority Leader] Kevin McCarthy,” he told The Hill.
“My job is not to lead 240 some odd Republicans in a conference, my job is to be consistent to what I told the voters the 5th District I was going to be when I ran, and I’m candidly proud of the job I’m doing,” he said.